How Long Should You Wait after Cooking Before Cleaning the Pan?

Does the sizzling sound tempt you to take your hot pan straight from the stove to the sink and splash it with cold water? Maybe you think it makes it easier for you to clean the residue or perhaps you just like to clean off your kitchen counter as soon as you’re done with the cooking.

If you do, please quit this practice!

You should never throw a hot pan in the sink and run it under water right after turning off the stove. It should be left aside to cool for a few minutes before you go on a cleaning spree unless you want to ruin it over time.

When and How You Should Clean Your Pan after Cooking

The best way to avoid causing damage to your pans is by allowing them to cool down naturally at room temperature on the stovetop after you’re done with the cooking.

If you want to make space on the stovetop, you can put the pan on a trivet or some other heat-proof surface. When setting it aside, make sure you wipe off the surface and don’t accidentally make it sit in a puddle of water.

Tossing a hot pan in the sink may disintegrate the last bit of food and save you the elbow grease of scrubbing it off later. However, it will only destroy your pans in the long run.

Why You Should Never Toss a Hot Pan under Running Water

Here are some reasons why you should never put your pan under running water after cooking.

It Causes Thermal Shock

Metals expand on a molecular level when heated. Most cooking pans are made with multiple layers of metal, usually stainless steel and aluminum. Your pan may also have an enameled or non-stick finish.

These materials expand and contract at different temperatures. You may not notice it when the change in temperature is gradual but when you put a sizzling hot pan in cold water, the cooling of the metals takes place too quickly. This leads to a thermal shock.

The bigger the difference in temperatures is, the higher the thermal shock will be. That being said, a hot pan that is exposed to cold water even for a few seconds is at risk for warping, shattering, chipping, or cracking.

Warped Pans Don’t Cook Evenly

When pan warps, the bottom of the pan becomes uneven, making it difficult for the pan to sit flat on the stovetop.

This can ultimately cause the oil to pool on one side of the pan.

Moreover, preparing perfectly-cooked meals can become challenging when the pan just won’t sit flat on induction or electric cooktop.

The Coating Might Come Off

If your pan somehow saves itself from warping, its coating may come off. We are sure you wouldn’t want to see the chipped off pieces of enamel or non-stick coating in your food!

With this ruined coating, cleaning will also become a major hassle because the food will easily find a way to stick to the surface of the pan.

Related article: What to Do When the Non-Stick Pan Coating Is Coming Off?

It May Create Hot and Cold Spots

Hot and cold spots may also form on the surface of your pan.

Heat may not be distributed evenly across the surface and certain parts may remain hot or cold. This will result in uneven cooking or heating of the food.

It Promotes Pollution

This point isn’t relevant to your cooking pan but it sure is for your drainage pipes and most importantly, for the environment.

When you run water over a hot pan laced with grease, oil, or any residue, you put all of it down the drain. This may result in the clogging of the pipes and the explosion of the sewage.

Additionally, all the oil leftover finds a way into the water sources, including lakes, seas, and streams. Imagine the number of households dumping oil into the waterways – it can’t be healthy for the environment!

The Best Way to Clean Your Cooking Pans

Now that we know that you need to wait a while before cleaning the pan after cooking, let’s also look at the best ways to clean some of the common cooking pans we use daily.

Non-stick Pans

The ideal way to clean the interior of your non-stick cookware is by hand washing them. For this, you must use liquid detergent and a non-abrasive sponge or soft bristle brush.

A liquid cleaner may also be used if you think the residue is difficult to remove. Wash the pan by hands in hot, sudsy water.

While working with hard-anodized aluminum exterior, use liquid dishwashing detergent and gently scrub the surface with a non-abrasive pad or sponge. That being said, some non-stick, hard-anodized pans are dishwasher safe. If yours is, you can simply use an automatic dishwashing detergent that is free from bleach and citrus additives.

Disclaimer: Do NOT use baking soda, bleach, abrasive cleaning pads or sponge, or liquid household cleaners made for floors and porcelain to clean your non-stick cooking pans. They will damage its finish.

Stainless Steel Pans

When it comes to stainless steel pans, you should allow it to cool down gradually for a few minutes before you throw it in the sink and soak in warm, soapy water. Wait for a few minutes before you wipe it clean with a soapy sponge.

For tougher stains and burned-on food, it’s better to use a stainless steel cleaner. Alternatively, you can mix baking soda and water and apply the paste on the surface of the pan. Place the pan on the stovetop and simultaneously, scrape the burned areas with a wooden spoon. This will loosen the bits and wipe them away, leaving your pan clean and shiny.

After cleaning the pan thoroughly, dry it using a clean and soft piece of cloth.

Cast Iron Pans

After cooking in a cast iron pan, you must allow it to cool down completely before immersing it into water.

Keep in mind that you can’t use soap with cast iron pans, as it removes the oil and seasoning required to keep their surface non-stick. You should clean your cast iron pan with a stiff brush and some hot water. Don’t forget to dry the surface with a towel immediately after washing to prevent it from rusting.

Moreover, consider applying a thin layer of vegetable oil or cooking spray to the surface of the pan while the pan is still warm from the sink’s water. Use a paper towel to wipe away any access.

Taking Good Care of Your Pans

You should pay extra attention when working with thin non-stick pans, as their susceptibility to thermal shock is quite high. The thicker pans are usually more well-constructed and resistant to temperature changes. The sturdy ones may only experience temporary warpage and may even return to their original shape after some time upon cooling.

However, they shouldn’t also be put in the sink immediately after cooking. Directly placing a hot pan under cold water can damage any pan.

Other Common Practices that Damage Cooking Pans

Apart from cleaning the pan right after cooking, here are some other common things we often do that can damage our cooking pans.

Preheating for Too Long

Preheating an empty pan, whether non-stick or not, for too long may cause it to reach cooking temperatures and beyond too quickly.

When you place food items in an overheated pan, they can burn or stick to the surface in a matter of seconds. This can make cleaning a nightmare for you. In addition to this, non-stick finish usually starts to degrade if the temperature goes beyond 400 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

Therefore, be alert when you’re preheating your pan to ensure that you add food before it gets overheated.

Using Metal Utensils

Many pans have non-stick surfaces that are not metal utensil safe.

Make sure you check the labels before using these utensils on non-stick interiors. Otherwise, even the most expensive pans will be ruined for life.

Applying a Non-stick Spray

You don’t need to use a non-stick spray on a non-stick pan.

If you do, it will only build up on the surface and compromise its performance.

Adding Salt into Water before Boiling

Putting salt into water before it starts boiling is perhaps the most common mistake people make, failing to realize the damage it can cause to the pan.

Salt dissolves in water only at high temperatures. Hence, it should be added after the water starts boiling. Otherwise, it won’t dissolve rapidly.

Stop adding salt and water in the pan at the same time, hoping to heat it all together. The salt will only sit at the bottom of the pan during heating and it won’t dissolve completely. The undissolved crystals will react aggressively with metals and leave permanent stains or spots on the surface of the pan.

In worse cases, when your pan becomes gets accustomed to heating undissolved salt over and over, it will develop small pits.

There is no point in purchasing a high-quality cooking pan if you continue to wash it in cold water right after you’re done the cooking. Waiting a few minutes until it cools down naturally will keep it in good shape and increase its efficiency as well as lifespan.

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